Robert M Neer’s thoughtful history, Napalm: An American Biography (Harvard University Press, £22.95), is divided into three sections: hero, soldier and pariah. These neatly describe the evolution of our attitudes towards the incendiary. During the second world war, few had any objections to its use. Its horror was viewed as an advantage because it frightened opponents. Battle hardened soldiers who resisted conventional attacks soon surrendered after being sprayed with napalm from flamethrowers or from specially adapted tanks. Our atavistic fear of fire made napalm the weapon of choice. “People have this thing about being burned to death,” one soldier explained.